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Three Clever Ways to Know the Competition Better

What is the secret to success in business? That’s easy! It’s how well you know the competition.

Alright, maybe this is a slightly over-simplified perspective, but it always surprises me how many companies work with a primarily internal focus.

I have written many posts about knowing your customers, such as “Why Customers Are The Answer To All Your Problems (If You Ask the Right Questions).” Watching and listening to them in order to fully understand their rational needs and emotional desires is a great – and free! – way to start.

But today I would like to speak about doing exactly the same thing for your competitors. If you are going to succeed in attracting their customers away from their products and services, then it would make sense to know them as well as you do your own.

Here’s a simple three-step process to do so. 

 

Encourage employees to use competitive products & services

Know the competition better by trying their products and services.In most organisations today, using competitive products is still frowned upon; after all, we make the best don’t we, so why use those of other companies?

However to challenge and beat the competition you have to intimately know what you are up against. Regular contact with competitive products will encourage your employees to evaluate your own offering. They will also be encouraged to suggest competitors’ strengths and weaknesses that were perhaps not evident before. It will also ensure that you are rapidly aware of any improvements made by the competition. You won’t get left behind and find yourself suffering from declining sales due to competitive improvements of which you are unaware.

To challenge & beat the competition you have to intimately know what you are up against through regularly experiencing their product and service offers. #marketing #competition #brand Click To Tweet

This intimacy with competitors’ products and customers should be requested of employees at all levels, by being one of their annual objectives. Of course, in some industries this might not be possible, due to the selective nature of the product or service, but certainly for most consumer products and service companies, this can easily be done on a regular basis.

Now encouraging people to use competitive products is easy to say, but you should also be prepared to invest in it, by paying for your employees to experience them. It would be unfair, and would certainly be resented, if your people had to spend their own money to make such experiences. This knowledge gathering should be seen as an investment by your organisation, of at least equal value to offering your employees discounts on your own products and services.

Why don’t you start a similar process and add these experiences to everyone’s annual objectives? It’s a great way, and a free one at that, to know the competition better than you do today.

 

Make a Library of Competitive Products and Material

KNow your competition better by sharing what you knowIn one of my previous positions, the company had an incredible competitive library. This included every single competitive product that was available from all around the world, classified by country and organised by segment.

Everyone found this library extremely useful, especially when discussing such topics as shelf impact, packaging or in trying to understand our competitor’s portfolio strategy.

However, it was managed by the marketing services team and was hidden away in the lower ground floor where people rarely passed by. Additionally, the packs were emptied of their contents, to avoid infestations of vermin and insects, so people never got to try the products.

It would have been even better had the products been displayed in a location that was easily accessible to everyone. In addition, the products should have ideally been sampled before the packages were emptied of their contents. That said, they still remain one of the few companies I know that have been observing and following their competitors in such a consistent way for decades. As you can imagine, they were always ahead of the market and up-to-date with their competitive intelligence!

Stay ahead of the market & up-to-date with what you competitors are doing with a competitive library of products and communications material. #brand #marketing #communications Click To Tweet

Another client of mine has made a library of communications material. Their advertising agency is of course the major source of the samples, but employees who travel are also encouraged to take photos of ads and promotional materials which are then added to the library. You would be amazed how inspiring it is to review this work whenever a group is discussing their own advertising and promotions. They avoid duplication, get great ideas from countries to which they don’t normally have access, and can again take their customers’ perspective when comparing the samples with their own work.

What could you do to make your competitors’ products and communications more easily accessible to your employees? If you’re serious about wanting to know the competition better than you do today, you have to stay on top of what they are doing at all times.

 

Understand your Competitors’ Customers too

Observe to know the competition betterThis same curiosity to know your competitors’ products can also be used to know and better understand your competition’s customers as well.

When your employees go out to observe your own customers, they should also pay attention to those people who are not using your products or services. In this way they can gather additional information that can then be compared with your knowledge of your own customers.

Whether it is getting a better understanding of your competitors’ products and services or the people that use them, the information accumulated must be stored and shared internally to be of any benefit. Some companies organise weekly or monthly sessions where people from different departments can share their latest knowledge and observations. For more ideas on how to share effectively read “Knowledge sharing and how to WOW!” 

Other companies organise customer connection sessions where teams of employees from different departments – with differing perspectives – go out together with a task to complete or a question to answer. These could be for example:

  • How, where and when do people use our product or service?
  • What is their biggest frustration in shopping for the category?
  • If they could make one change to our major competitor’s product, what would it be?
  • What differences are there in the way the category’s brands are displayed?
  • Which social media channels are most popular with category users?

Employees gather ideas and information by first observing and only afterwards asking questions for clarification purposes. Upon their return, the teams can meet up to share their ideas and learnings, as well as to discuss the impact of their findings and agree on what actions if any need to be taken. For more details on how to observe customers, whether your own or those of your major competitors, read “Five Rules of Customer Observation and Why it’s Hard to Do Effectively.”

I have witnessed these customer connection sessions being run in countless organisations. Every single time I see just how excited and energised employees get about improving the way the company makes, packs, sells or communicates its products and services.

Isn’t it time your organisation got closer to your customers and those of the competition? 

 

These are three ways you can easily and quickly know the competition better than you do today. Do you have other ideas that you’d like to share? I’d love to see your comments below. 

Have you run any such customer connection exercises, or built a competitive library of products in your own organisation? If so please share your experiences too.

For more ideas on how you can know the competition even better, why not organise one of our 1-Day Catalyst Training Sessions? We have them on many areas of brand building, so you are sure to find exactly what you need to inspire and energise your team. Check out and download our brochures here. If you would rather talk through your needs first, then feel free to book time in my calendar. 

This post is an update of one that was first published on C3Centricity in 2011. All images in this article are from the book “Winning Customer Centricity – Putting customers at the heart of your business – One day at a time.” 

The Ultimate Guide to Developing Actionable Insights

One of the biggest challenges of many marketers is developing actionable insights about the market and it’s customers.

Are you satisfied with the way you turn your data and information into underst anding and then develop insights on which you can take clear actions? If not, then you will find this post tremendously useful in helping you to update your practices.

Even if you are happy with your insight development process, converting them into actions can still be a stumbling block. In January 2013 Forrester wrote an article suggesting that last year would be the year for market insights. Eighteen months on, things don’t seem to have progressed much, so hopefully this post will enable your own organisation to advance and to get ahead of the competition.

#1. Be precise in your objectives

Your objectives for developing an insight should be presented as a desired change in your target (>>Tweet this<<). For example, if you are looking to increase your market share, you could be looking to find a way to convince competitive br and purchasers to buy your br and instead.

Identifying the change you are looking to encourage is the first step to uncovering a true actionable insight. Are you identifying the change you desire in your customers? If not then this is something you should start doing; it will make developing actionable insights more focused and thus also easier.

#2. Involve a wide range of experts

Insights are not the sole responsibility of the Market Research & Insight Department (>>Tweet this<<). Everyone in the company can bring valuable information and underst anding to address the identified opportunity. Therefore, involving people with a wide range of perspectives can make insight development more effective.

Gather a team of experts to provide a 360° perspective of the category or br and, including for example:

  • R&D, who can bring underst anding of available internal & external technical skills
  • operations who can share current defects and development aspects
  • sales who can add retail perspectives, including distribution, packaging and shelving limitations or opportunities
  • marketing who will provide the communications, image, equity and competitive environment
  • customer services who can add current customer sensitivities, problems or suggestions
  • finance who can highlight any budgetary limitations and ensure financial goals are met

The group you bring together will be a function of the change you are looking to make. I personally believe that the exercise should be run by your market research and insights team, since it is their profession to underst and people and behaviour. They also generally have the widest and most detailed perspective of anyone in the company

#3. Review all available information & knowledge

All organisations have far more information than most employees realise (>>Tweet this<<), including your market research, insight, strategy and planning teams. This highlights the need for having a group of people from different departments since they will bring alternative perspectives and information sources to light.

Once the team has been formed and the objectives for the insight development exercise have been agreed, it is time to organise a complete review of all the available information and knowledge.  You should look for recurring themes, expressions and words across the different information sources that might provide indications of the issues or opportunities around the identified objectives.

As everyone completes the review of the information, a number of working sessions can help to share the information already found and start the process of getting closer to an insight. The actual insight development exercise will take place in another meeting once all available information has been assessed and any information gaps filled.

#4. Walk in your customers’ shoes

I am always disappointed that social media has further encouraged marketers to stay behind their desks instead of getting out and meeting their customers. Is this the case in your own organisation? Although you can certainly learn a lot about your customers’ opinions and needs online, it is only when you take their place that you get the chance to really see things from their perspective (>>Tweet this<<).

Walking in your customers’ shoes can be done in numerous ways and will depend upon the issue or opportunity you have identified, as well as the underst anding you have gained from reviewing all the information you have gathered. You could for instance:

  • go out shopping and purchase item as one of your target customers. This will help you underst and the decision making process of your target customers.
  • compare competitive offers online for a service you propose. Is your website as user-friendly as your competitors’? Have you thought of all the important elements you need to include?
  • call up the customer service departments of a number of your competitors and ask questions about their br and’s uses, reliability etc. Do your own staff provide the same information? Are they as knowledgeable, credible, empathetic?
  • role play your target customer in using your product and identify opportunities to improve for instance its packaging. If your product is used by mothers of toddlers, is it easy to open with one h and? If your product is used in certain dem anding surroundings, such as outdoors, in the car, in the country, at night, is it easy to open and consume in such situations?

Whilst walking in your customers’ shoes, you should be extremely sensitive to any pain points you uncover in considering, evaluating, shopping and using your br and. If you are looking to define a completely new offer, then it is the pain points of your competitors’ offers that you also need to consider. Taking your customers perspective, rather than just observing them, can provide a wealth of information you might not get in any other way.

#5. Fill the gaps

Having gathered as much information and knowledge about your customer as you can, including walking in their shoes, it is important to turn it all into underst anding. This also enables you to identify any information gaps there may be. Never do any market research until you have first identified all the information that is already available on the topic under review (>>Tweet this<<). These gaps can be filled by running a market research project or by acquiring the required information from other sources.

Before continuing with insight development, these new findings need to be summarised and integrated into the knowledge and information already reviewed. If the objectives of the project have been well defined, this should be relatively easy to do, as you had already clearly identified the need.

#6. Develop the insight

At this stage, you will certainly have a better underst anding of your customer in relation to the identified issue or opportunity than you have ever had before. Insight development needs input from every member of the multidisciplinary team (>>Tweet this<<), which can take anything from a few hours to several days. Don’t hurry this process; we are often too keen to get to the action and accept to work with something that is not a true insight.

You will know when you have an insight. When you summarise it in one (or maximum two) sentences phrased as if it were being spoken by your customer, it creates what is known as an “ah-ha” moment. This is when everyone sees it is obvious and wonders why no-one ever thought of it before! I am sure you will agree with me that it is a wonderfully rewarding feeling when you get there.

 

These are the six essential steps to developing true insight, but the most important step of all is still to come, that of actioning them. This is where the multi-disciplinary team really comes into its own. As all the team have agreed on the objectives and the insight, it is extremely easy for them to define the next steps that need to be taken. It also means that all areas of the organisation will work together to take the appropriate actions, rather than just the marketing department which may otherwise happen.

From my experience actioning insights is only a problem when not enough time has been spent at the beginning of the whole process, in underst anding the change in your customers that you are looking to encourage. If you have trouble with this part of the process, then I would suggest reviewing the completeness of the definition of your objectives.

What areas of insight development do you find the most challenging? Do you have any questions about generating or improving your own insight development process? If so, then please add a comment or question below. I would be happy to answer them for you.

For more information on insight development, please check out our website at: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/underst and/ as well as available trainings at: https://www.c3centricity.com/training- and-evaluation/

C³Centricity used images from Dreamstime and Kozzi in this post.

New Thinking for Old Ways of Business

I’ve just come back from IIeX-EU (Insight Innovation Exchange – Europe) in Amsterdam, and my head is full of exciting new things to experiment. It’s strange what happens to our brains when we have the chance to get away from the office and THINK! We become more creative, less bound by old habits, and ready to try new experiences.

After these few days away, I am fired with enthusiasm to bring real changes to my own business, those of my clients, as well as to yours through this post. I’d like to share a few of the ideas which were stimulated by some of the best presentations I’ve ever seen grouped into one single conference. Read on for four inspirational ideas for you to implement immediately, to bring new thinking into your own business.

Partner for Growth

Lowes logo eOne of the first speakers at the event was Kyle Nel from Lowe’s, an American home improvement chain. He explained that business is about changing customers’ behaviour and to do this we need to constantly update our methods for underst anding them. Lowe’s finds inspiration in partnering with organisations including Coke, UNICEF and NASA; how’s that for thinking outside the box? By connecting with companies in other industries, their thinking is constantly challenged, which enables them to grow exponentially, rather than in the linear fashion that most of us seem to be satisfied with. Kyle shared how Lowe’s accepts that whilst there may often be disappointments, the one in ten new ideas that truly deliver are worth all their efforts.

NEW THINKING: Find a catalyst for your own growth to bring you new ideas from external sources. Also look outside your industry for inspiration, and partner with a select few industry leaders that are trying new, exceptionally creative things (Like Loew’s!)

Know what you Know

Information & knowledge sharing is essentialGregory Short, author of “The Billion Dollar Paperclip”, suggested that it’s time we took a new look at our business and the eco-system in which it is operating. Amongst the list of things mentioned, he included identifying what you already know. This resonated with me because so often when new clients ask for help, they often already have a lot of the information they are seeking, they just didn’t know they had it!

Haiko van Lengen and Sjoerd Koornstra shared a Heineken case study which covered a similar point on knowledge sharing. They mentioned the 2009 Boston Consulting Group Insight Benchmarking study which showed that most companies are not using the majority of the information they gather.

Haiko and Sjoerd suggested that before doing any sort of information gathering, we should first assess what is already available internally on the topic. This review should include talking to all departments and definitely not just market research. You would be surprised how many companies operate in silos, each buying their own reports and information, and too often without the knowledge of their market research and insight department.

NEW THINKING: Find a way of sharing more information across your organisation, by setting up an easily accessible storage system. This could be as simple as a shared folder or as proprietary as a knowledge management system and library.

Don’t be Scared of Emotions

Plutchik's wheel of emotionsDiana Lucaci at True Impact Marketing, spoke about the surprising habit many marketers have of being satisfied with knowing just the “Who” and the “What” of their customers’ behaviours. She pointed out that it is even more important to underst and the “Why” of customer actions in order to impact them.

With the rapid expansion in the use of neuroscience and biometric measurement in market research, we now have the possibility to underst and a lot about our customers without even directly asking. Perhaps it’s time for you to experiment (again?). Let me know if you’re interested in trying out the leading emotional measurement tool around.

Diana also made a throw-away comment at the end of her presentation that was also later picked up by Daryl Travis during his talk on “Why emotions win the battle of the br ands”. It reminds us that there are simple things we can do that can have an incredibly positive impact on our customers’ loyalty:

“Make sure that checkout, or the last action your customer makes, is a memorable and positive experience” (>>Tweet this quote<<)

Daryl also ended his presentation with another well chosen, inspiring quote from Maya Angelou, the American author and poet:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” (>>Tweet this quote<<)

NEW THINKING: Review your own customer journey maps, but this time as an emotional journey and ensure that the last step is a positive experience – or urgently correct it if it isn’t!

Customers only Care about the Benefit

Benefits are what interest customersThis links to the previous comment on emotions. Michael Bartl from Hyve, mentioned that your customers don’t really care about who or how you solve their problems, only that you have a solution. Whilst this is probably correct in general, I believe there are some customers who do care and you need to know who they are. Concerns about sustainability, sourcing and ecological impact can all be relevant for some industries and br ands, so you need to check whether they are to your customers or a segment of them.

NEW THINKING: Review your advertising and see if you too spend most time speaking about rational product or service elements and less about the customer benefits. If it’s the case, make the swap to a more benefits-driven communications and measure the impact.

These are just four of the tens of pages of ideas I wrote, that were stimulated by presentations I followed during the IIEX-EU conference in Amsterdam last week. I hope they inspired your own thinking and interest in trying out some new things in your own marketing and market research. Let me know if you have any questions or comments, or if you’d be interested in getting some help in catalysing change in your own organisation.

C³Centricity uses images from Dreamstime and  Kozzi

This is Why your New Products “Crash & Burn”

Last month I invited readers to share some of the problems and challenges they need to address in 2014. I offered a free consultation to one lucky winner who asked the most interesting question, which could also be of interest for me to answer for other readers.

Well, the winner is Jean-Francois (JF) who has just started working with a start-up in the tech and app areas – I feel that’s more and more of us these days, don’t you? His question was:

“I would like to commercialize a new XXX; what would be the right approach to identify the consumer need and then the market potential, considering that the company has very limited financial resources?”

This is a great question and a reminder that not every organisation has access to large market research or marketing departments and extensive budgets. In fact, in many companies these roles are being h andled by one and the same person with very few resources; is that your case? If so then you will definitely find this post of interest, but even if it isn’t, I’m sure you will still find value from the ideas shared.

As I had promised, I gave Jean-Francois a one-on-one consultancy which ended up lasting several hours, as he had planned well for our session together. He also happens to be really passionate about his innovative idea, as well as in finding solutions to all his challenges.

The product JF and his team want to launch doesn’t exist on the market today, although there are some products which are unsuccessfully trying to address the perceived customer need. The proportion of product launches which fail every year is generally “accepted” to be about 95% – although why companies continue to accept such levels is beyond me! With such odds, I think it is incredibly courageous to start a whole company based around just one new product idea, but that seems to be the norm in many areas today.

Let’s start by taking a look at some of the reasons new products fail and identify ways to reduce if not completely eliminate them for your next launch.

  1. New product Process wheelThe process itself: Innovation is by definition a creative process, but many organisations use a well-worn, restrictive and uncreative process to develop their new products. They are at best most likely to come up with renovations than true innovations. The solution is to introduce some creativity into the process, and why not include potential customers in the process too?
  2. Meeting company quotas: It is surprising that with such miserable statistics concerning the likely success rate of new products, that so many companies – and which shockingly include many of the largest CPGs around – fix quotas on the number of annual new product launches. How crazy is that?! It just encourages too many new products to be launched too early, and almost guarantees failure! I believe it would be much better to seriously limit the levels of acceptance amongst all new product ideas proposed in any year, then only the best would get through.
  3. Lack of customer underst anding: This is most likely one of, if not the most important reason for new product launch failures. And I don’t mean that you should ask the customer what he wants, he doesn’t know until you make it available to him in many industries. No, I mean starting by looking at a customer’s lifestyle and seeing how you can make it easier and more enjoyable for them. If you already have a new product idea, which was the case for JF, then consider how it would make the customer’s life easier or better. If it doesn’t, then you perhaps need to reassess its market appeal.
  4. Lack of category underst anding: This follows on from customer underst anding, in that you need to identify how the customer is currently working around or compensating for their need today. Don’t assume you are competing in a certain category until you have identified what the customer is currently doing or using. That is the way to identify your true competition.
  5. Not living up to your promises: If you promise a better, cheaper or more enjoyable experience, then customers deserve to be able to confirm this if they buy. Especially in today’s connected world, if you disappoint by not meeting customers’ expectations, your product will fail even more quickly than in the past, since early-adopters will Tweet or leave comments on Facebook, Blogs or other social media platforms for all to see.
  6. Not being sufficiently differentiated: Following on from living up to your promises, customers need a reason to change behaviours, and depending upon the category this can be costly, whether in time, money or effort. Many customers prefer to continue buying an inferior product or service than making the effort to change – think Telecom, Banking, Hotels, Air travel or Insurance as some of the most typical examples of such industries. These businesses are in a constant battle to differentiate themselves and provide a real advantage to attract new customers.
  7. Being too different: Whilst not being sufficiently differentiated can be a certain cause of failure, being too new can also meet with no success. The reason for this is that if customers are totally unfamiliar with the new product or service offering, you will need to spend considerable resources to educate them. If you are unable or not willing to invest the time and money in doing this, then you will undoubtedly fail to attract more than just a few customers who take the time to underst and what you are offering.
  8. Correct pricing is key to NPD successPricing yourself out of the market: Here I’m not just speaking of pricing your product too high; being too low can also negatively impact your likely success. Underst anding how much potential customers value your offer to essential to the success of any product. Getting it wrong can result in lost revenue or worse a promotional spiral leading to br and hell (read more about this in “Are you on the way to br and heaven or hell“)
  9. Inappropriate distribution: This can be the consequence of an incomplete underst anding of your customer and is also linked to differentiation. Whilst you can just follow near competitors into their own distribution channels, why ignore the possibility of being available where and when your customer might buy it most? By reducing the effort necessary to change their habits and buy, you can attract more potential customers to at least try your new product.
  10. Being too far ahead of the customer: There are many examples of great products that were ahead of their time. Gillette brought out 2–in–1 shampoos with conditioners included in the early 70’s, but they were a dramatic flop. Ten years later most personal care manufacturers offered these products, and were met with huge success, even if such products have gone out of fashion somewhat since then. It took Nespresso almost twenty years to become profitable and Philip Morris has needed similar levels of patience for their most infamous of br ands Marlboro, in many markets. If you can’t afford to wait for your customers to catch up with your new product idea, then you should certainly reconsider your launch decision.

These are ten of the most common reasons for new product launch failure. Which do you think is most prevalent in your own company? What are you going to change to increase the success of your own new products? Is it some other reason altogether, that I’ve missed? Let me know and share your thoughts below. 

Coming back to JF, most of our time together was spent discussing ways to collect information on many of the above points. As he has little budget for extensive market research, it was important for him to find other ways of gathering the much needed information and not to just bypass that stage; perhaps many people don’t bother to search out the information they need to truly assess the likely success of their new product, which would explain the high failure rate mentioned above.

By the end of my session with JF, he had a clear plan of action and I have since heard that he is progressing incredibly fast, so watch this space for an announcement concerning the launch of his new device.

I will be sharing the tips I gave him in a future blog post, but in the meantime feel free to continue sending me your own questions; I’m always ready to have a short Skype or phone call to assist you with your own marketing and innovation challenges.

C³Centricity uses images from  DreamstimeKozzi  and Microsoft

10 Ways to tell if you’re Customer Centric: And what to do about it if you’re not

Summer is a great time to reflect on the progress we have made to date on our plans, be they personal or professional. Having finally completed the “nth” revision of my latest book –the formatting not the content! – it was the perfect occasion for me to review what I wanted to achieve in the coming six months.

This got me thinking about how organisations too need to take a step back and review how their plans are going and what changes need to be made to ensure their completion over the remaining six months of the year. So here are my ten ways to tell if you are well on your way to becoming truly customer centric – and what actions you can still take to go further along your journey.

#1. Identify the category in which you are competing

This may sound strange to you, but many br ands are not competing in the category in which they first thought they were. Think soup which is now a meal replacement, or laptops which are now entertainment platforms.

Action: Review how your product or service fits into the customers’ daily life and how they compare and decide between options. This will help you identify your real competitors and the actual category in which you are competing.

#2. Underst and your primary target

Boston MatrixKnowing precisely who the customer is for each of your br ands is the first essential step to satisfying them. Use the BCG Matrix to help select the best group. Do you already work with this matrix, or do you have a better system? Please share your own best practice below, so I can learn.

Action: Review the target audience for each of your br ands and ensure you have information on their +4Ws” – Who, What, Where and Why: demographics, purchase, usage, media use, places of purchase, consumption, connections to communications, their values, usage motivations and emotions when doing so.

#3. Watch and listen to your customers

Personal experience of your customers is essential to putting them at the heart of your business.

Action: Ensure everyone has regular – ideally monthly – contact with the customer, whether by listening in at the call centre, watching market research interviews & discussions, or observing customers as they shops and use your product / service.

#4. Know what current trends could mean for your business

Many organisations follow trends, but they don’t provide any competitive advantage unless they are turned into future scenarios.

Action: Identify the most relevant trends for your br and and then project them into the future to develop two axes of uncertainty and four plausible future worlds. These will help prepare the business for future opportunities and challenges.

#5. Reinvent your innovation

Example of innovation leversMost organisations innovate based upon their current knowledge or technical skills. This keeps them boxed into a narrow b and of categories.

Action: Take your NPD thinking outside its box, by making use of all relevant innovation levers, including, but not limited to, packaging, channels, sourcing, communications, br anding, services.

 

#6. Follow your image

It is amazing how many companies don’t follow their br and images on a regular basis. Image trends are a great way to be alerted to possible sales issues before they appear in the numbers.

Action: Identify the major image attributes of both your own and competitor br ands, and measure them regularly (annually for fast moving categories, every two to three years for slower moving ones).

#7. Turn your information into insight

Whilst information and knowledge are essential to gather, it is only when they are turned into underst anding and insight that they become truly customer centric.

Action: Review your insight development process and ensure decisions about customer satisfaction are based on them and not just on information. Insights ensure your communications resonate with your customers and your product / service delights and sometime surprises them.

#8. Share your information and insights

Companies spend a lot of money gathering data and information about the market and customers. However, in most cases they spend far too much money, because the information that is needed is actually already available somewhere in the company.

Action: Review your organisation’s information needs and negotiate contracts and access company-wide rather than by department. Make your information and insights available to everyone in the company through a library or database with appropriately managed access rights.

#9. Evaluate your progress

Business DashboardAs the infamous quote from Peter Drucker says “What gets measured gets managed”. Besides br and image, are you following other KPIs to measure your progress on your journey to customer centricity?

Action: Identify the three to five most important areas you want to improve and then measure them consistently. If the numbers aren’t trending up, act – see #10. below. The actual metrics you follow will depend upon your industry, but may include market comparison (shares), availability (distribution or out-of-stock) communications impact, competitivity, value.

 

#10. Plan for action

Once you have identified the KPIs to follow, you need to take action to improve those that are trending downwards and perhaps also those which are stable.

Action: Since your KPIs are the most important metrics for your business, plan actions as soon as their trend changes and don’t wait.

These ten steps should ensure your organisation remains focussed on the customer and doesn’t get lost in the day-to-day issues of the business. After all, as I have been quoted many times for saying:

“There may be customers without br ands, but there are no br ands without customers”

Think about it; do you have the right priorities? How do you know? Have I missed an essential step off of my list above? If so, let me know. Please also share which of your actions towards customer centricity you are struggling with the most. Together we’ll find a solution.

If you would like to  know how customer centric your organisation really is, then why not complete the C3C Evaluator? Check it out on our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/C3Cmembers

Need help on your journey to customer centricity? Let us help you catalyze your business; contact us here.

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

Increasing your Information ROI: Turning Knowledge into Gold

We all gather information about our customers. What do we do with it? We (hopefully) use it to inform our decisions and then it gets filed away. In some cases this is vertical (i.e. thrown away) but usually it is horizontal, to gather dust on a shelf somewhere that is soon forgotten. I think it’s time we changed this and turned our information investments into gold!

There are many, many ways to gather information about the customer: observation, listening, market research and external reports. I recently wrote about all the information on our customer that we should have at our disposition in a post called “12 Things you need to know about your target customers”. We need a lot of information to really know and underst and our customer and it clearly will not come from one single market research project or report. Therefore that knowledge must be built up over time and that is where the problem lies.

Often we forget we already have the information and go out and buy it again. This is particularly common when the marketing department changes its lead or members – which seems to be every year or two in many organisations these days! Everyone thinks they need more information, when they actually most likely need more insight. (I have written several posts on insight development, including “ Are you into insights or information?”) Therefore I thought it would be a good idea to share some ideas on resolving this situation, so that your hard-fought budget gets spent on gathering information that you don’t have available and really do need.

#1. Review what you’ve got

Data, information and knowledge are only useful if they are analysed and converted into underst anding and insight. In today’s data-rich environment, this is often where companies struggle the most. Next time you need information about your customer, start by reviewing the information and knowledge you already have, and also ask other departments who may need similar information, if they have it, before commissioning further research or report purchases.

#2. Share what you’ve got

One of the reasons companies spend money on gathering information that is already available internally, is because they don’t know it is! To help reduce this overspend, which unfortunately most suppliers will not inform you of, you need to make sure that everyone who might need the information is made aware of it and has access to it.

For one of my clients, we discovered that some external reports were being bought separately more than 20 times within the organisation! As if that wasn’t bad enough, several different departments were also buying access to the same databases, and others were doing almost identical pieces of market research at approximately the same time.

To avoid this:

  • make a review of information needs across the organisation, or across the region or globe if yours is an international business
  • make one person responsible for negotiating company-wide deals with suppliers; the savings made may even cover the cost of this position and is therefore well worth the investment
  • share plans for market research projects across businesses and look for opportunities to combine for further cost savings

#3. Store what you’ve got

Despite all the actions specified in #2. above, you may still find that there are times when unplanned information needs crop up. This is where a knowledge database or library becomes effective. It can be as simple as a folder on a shared drive or as complex as a bespoke platform, or anything in between. What is important is that is meets the needs of those looking for information and that all relevant people have easy access to it.

Whichever size of storage you decide on, I suggest first making an audit of information needs. This should cover both what is available, as well as what is needed and why. However be careful to distinguish between what people would like to have and what they actually need; I have found a wide difference between the two in many cases.

#4. Build your Library

Once you have identified the real needs of your organisation, it is time to build your Library. And don’t think once you have built it that people will immediately start to use it! They need to be encouraged to share their knowledge. In my experience, this can sometimes be met with concerns about the confidentiality of the information stored:

“I would love to see what everyone else has gathered, but of course my information is confidential and can’t be shared”

One possible solution to this is to provide right of use only to those who share their knowledge and information, ideally at similar levels to their access.  “Greedy outliers” who take more than they give should then be easy to identify.

Another issue that can crop up with open sharing is management’s worry about leaking information to the competition, especially when employees leave the company. Although this is often an exaggerated risk, in most cases this can be significantly reduced by controlling information download. If certain projects, especially new product development, are considered to be too high a risk to share, then these can have a confidential “as needs” basis rule, or a time limit set on them before being made public.

#5. Mine the gold

The real gold from information sharing comes quickly once it starts to be a reality. Even for smaller knowledge libraries, I have found that within six months the available information starts to replace planned research projects or report purchases.

Once the Library is up and running, the next step is to start sharing your insights too. As mentioned in “ Five ideas to improve your insight development” insights can often be used across more categories than the one for which it was developed. In the post I share a couple of examples of them:

  • INSIGHT: Parents want to protect their children so that they grow up happy and healthy used by:
    • Unilever's OmoUnilever’s Omo and its “Dirt is Good”; see one of their ads on YouTube here
    • Nestle Nido logoNestlé’s Nido; check out one of their ads here. Interestingly Nestlé has also used this same insight for its bottled water in Asia and pet food in the Americas.

 

  • INSIGHT: Young women want to be appreciated for who they really are i.e. not models used by
    • Unilever Dove logoUnilever’s Dove was the first br and to recognise and benefit from this insight with their infamous Real Beauty campaign; see one of their more recent ads here
    • Migros IamThe Swiss Supermarket chain Migros has a store toiletries br and “I am” which uses the same insight across all their health and beauty products, even using it for the br and name itself and advertising copy: “ I am – what I am“.

The power of information sharing goes a long way to increasing the return on information investments. Reviewing what you’ve already got, sharing and making it accessible to all, and then developing a library platform will all help increase its use whilst at the same time reducing the costs of market research and information gathering. So, what are you waiting for?

Have you developed your own system or library for information and insight sharing? If so please share your experiences and horror stories in the comments below. Everyone would love to know what some of the challenges may be for them when they follow your example. 

Need help in negotiating your information contracts or in building an information / insight Library? Why not call us to discuss just how much you could be saving and increase your information ROI. No obligation, just INSPIRATION!

If you would like to know more about knowledge sharing check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/underst and

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

A New Guide to Insight Development

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking at the Marketing & Communication Loft event in Geneva. The topic was building great br ands so how could I not talk about insight development, the foundation of all great br ands?

Ever since the marketing world started buzzing with the opportunities that BigData presents, insight development seems to have been forgotten. And yet data, whether big or small, cannot be used until it is turned into knowledge and underst anding and then insight.

I therefore thought it was time to take a fresh look at insight development and how BigData increases rather than decreases the need for true insight.

 

Marketing’s ROI is Lacking

A report by the Fournaise Marketing Group showed that 70% of CEOs have lost trust in marketers’ ability to deliver growth and 69% of them have stopped enforcing key business objectives & indicators on marketers because they have “continuously failed” to prove marketing strategies and campaigns deliver business growth.

The report further suggested that the reason for this was because marketing failed to deliver ROI, which is a surprise in today’s world of data and information. In fact a recent IBM report actually mentioned that the data explosion was the main worry of CMOs today, not the lack of information.

 

Insights and Customer Centricity

I believe the problem goes far beyond just data and is linked to marketers’ inability to make their organisations customer centric. In fact there was a suggestion in this same IBM report that marketers should not lead customer centricity initiatives. I think theyre right, as marketing is the defender of br ands rather than of the customer; it is difficult for one person to prioritise both!

Thinking customer first means doing everything we can to satisfy and hopefully, also delight them. So if we all know that, why are so many of us struggling to walk the talk of customer centricity? I believe it is linked to insight development. I don’t think we know and underst and our customers as well as we should.

We’ve been speaking about insight development for even longer than customer centricity, and yet we are still not always developing insight. Even today, we are more likely to be working with information, knowledge and sometimes underst anding, but rarely true insight. I think that many of us still haven’t grasped the importance of the fact that insight doesn’t come from information, nor knowledge, nor even underst anding, but from the integration of everything we know.

 

A Fresh Approach to Insights

Insights are built from hindsight, eyesight  and foresightInsight development requires the integration of three types of information, knowledge and underst anding:

  • Hindsight
  • Hearsight
  • Foresight

 

Hindsight is what all companies rely on most of the time. It’s about looking back at what has happened and trying to underst and why. The market shares we achieved, the recall of communications we aired, the volumes we manufactured. The problem is that Hindsight is yesterday’s news.

BigData helps to partly address this problem of recency, since most algorithms are developed to adapt to the latest information through machine learning. Although they will work with a combination of different data sources, some older than others, we are getting closer to real-time decision making. But data alone is still insufficient in most cases to develop true insight; we need to add Hearsight.

Hearsight is my name for what we can observe about what our customers are doing and what we can listen to when they are speaking. In some ways it’s better than hindsight, because we are listening to our customers and watching what they are doing today, rather than looking back to what they said or did yesterday. However, we must keep in mind that it is not market research, so we should use our findings to stimulate new thoughts and ideas about our br ands and categories, and not as the whole truth.

One problem with listening to and observing our customers, is that they are changing fast. What works today won’t work tomorrow. What is surprising today, will be taken for granted tomorrow. Although it’s not already out of date when we get it, as is the case with hindsight, it soon will be, so we can’t rely on this information alone either. That’s why we need to add foresight.

Foresight is about looking beyond today to what our customers will want or need tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, or even in years to come.When we speak of foresight, we often think of trend following services first, to provide it. The problem with them is that they are a service – and findings are shared with all the agencies’ clients. This means we’re following exactly the same information as our competitors. There is no competitive advantage in that! And when it comes to preparing for the future and innovation, this becomes a critical flaw of trend following tools.

So what’s the solution? Future scenarios are the solution. By extending trends into the future and combining and clashing them, we can come out with creative but plausible new worlds. These worlds will have similarities and differences which we can then use to develop new product concepts. Most scenarios are built using contrasting possible outcomes in two major areas of influence, sometimes referred to as the axes of uncertainty.

Most people find working with future scenarios exciting but we must remember a few things. Firstly scenarios are not forecasts. They are not predictions of what will happen but rather indications of what may happen in the market and with the customers’ choices and preferences in the future. However, scenarios do help prepare business for possible opportunities and risks. They are a useful way to consider possible future worlds and markets that can form the basis of brainstorming for the business.

 

Scenario Planning using SciFi Writers

Future l andscape
Has the Future already been written?
SOURCE: Kozzi.com

Many scenario companies offer sketch and video portrayals of the future worlds developed and then use storytelling to its utmost. One of my favourite suppliers in this area (whom I should also mention are C3Centricity partners) has a very unique way of developing and sharing their scenarios with their clients. SciFutures use science fiction!

This may surprise you but science fiction writers have a long history of imagining things that get developed 20, 50, 100 or more years later. Here are just few examples to illustrate.

  • H.G. Wells book “The World Set Free” spoke of the atom bomb – 30 years before its invention.
  • Mark Twain talked about what became the Internet in 1904.
  • Jules Verne’s story “From the Earth to the Moon”, predicted moon l andings and weightlessness – in 1865
  • Star Trek’s “Tricorder” – inspired the smart phone.
  • The Minority Report – inspired big data mining, Predictive Policing, virtual reality and touch screens.

Dan Ariely, Professor of psychology & behavioral economics at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina claims that:

“Humans grossly overestimate what is going to happen in the short term and completely underestimate what is going to happen in the long term”

Therefore in trying to design plausible future worlds, we need to stretch our minds way beyond what we would otherwise feel comfortable doing, and this is where SciFutures and their science fiction writers come into play. They are definitely bringing their clients an impressive competitive advantage with this radically new way of thinking!

Coming back to earth, I hope I have explained why I think it’s time to take a fresh look at Insight development. Insights come from integrating information and knowledge from multiple sources. We need Hindsight to know what has happened in the past, Hearsight to watch and listen to our customers to underst and their current behaviours, and we need Foresight to prepare for future opportunities and risks and to ensure that our innovations have been developed with maximum competitive advantage. Combining the three we get to insight.

Customer centricity is built upon our insights of our customers. A deep, intimate underst anding of our customers, what they desired yesterday, desire today and may desire tomorrow. It comes from integrating data and information from both internal and external sources; from market research, observation & listening and trend following & scenarios. All three types of information are needed to develop insights efficiently and effectively. Each adds different perspectives to the equation. If we all use more information for deeper insights, then we will finally be “in sight of our goal” to be truly customer centric.

Let me know what you think of this new approach to insight development in the comments below. In appreciation I leave you with an Irish Blessing:

Insights are a blessing

I believe we can never go too far in underst anding and satisfying our customers? Do you agree?

If you would like to  know more about insight development, check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/underst and

And if you could do with some support in underst anding your customers better, to develop deeper insights, let us help you catalyze your customer centricity. Contact us here TODAY!

Featured image source: Kozzi.com

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

12 Things you Need to Know about your Target Customers

How well do you know your target customers? I mean really know them? Are they men, women, young, old, Fortune 100 companies, local businesses?

If you can at least answer that, then you have the basics, but how much more could you know about them? Can you answer the following twelve questions?

I was recently working with a local service company who was looking for help with their online presence. They were keen to get more active on social media and had asked for advice about the best platforms, optimal frequency of publishing and possible content ideas.

However they were in for a surprise. Rather than getting straight onto the “sexy” topic of social media, I started by taking them through the basics of target customer identification. Lucky for them that I did! When we had finished the exercise, we had actually found five different targets for them to address, rather than just the two they had been addressing until now. This clearly would have an impact on both where, what and how they communicated online.

Customer persona template
Click image to download the template

These are the twelve questions that enabled us to brainstorm, identify and then complete a better and more complete description of their target customers. Their use also resulted in clear differentiated segments for their services – three more than they had originally thought! How would you like to double your own market potential? Read on:

  1. WHO DEMOGRAPHICS: OK this is usually a “no-brainer” and is how most organisations describe their customers. Not really original and definitely not competitive, but still the essential foundation.
  2. WHAT THEY USE: Whether you are offering a product or service, you need to know what your customers are using today. And not only for your category, but in adjacent categories too. What do they use – if anything – if your product / category is not available?
  3. WHAT THEY CONSUME: Here we need to underst and what types of information and media they are consuming; what do they read, watch, listen to in their spare time. Which social media do they use, what websites do they consult on a regular basis?
  4. WHAT THEY DO: How do your customers spend their time? What type of lifestyle do they have? What are their hobbies? What do they do all day, and in the evening and at weekends?
  5. WHAT THEY BUY: This is where you describe their current category purchasing habits. How frequently and what quantity do they buy? Do they have regular buying habits? Do they do research before buying or repurchasing? Do they compare and if so how, where, why?
  6. WHERE THEY CONSUME: Is the category consumed in home, in work, on vacation? With friends, with their partner, with friends? Are there certain surroundings more conducive to consumption? What makes it so?
  7. WHERE THEY BUY: Do your target customers have certain places and times they buy? Is it an habitual or impulse purchase? Is it seasonal?
  8. WHERE THEY READ: Today “read” covers not just traditional media but new media as well. From where do they get information about products? From manufacturers, friends, family, colleagues? Do they access it online, in print, on radio or TV, at home or on the road? What websites and people do they follow, listen to and value the opinion of? What interests do they have in general and concerning the category?
  9. WHERE THEY SEE: One reason to target a specific group of customers is so that you can better communicate with them. Where are they most likely to be open to your messages, what media, what times, which days?
  10.  WHY VALUES: What values do your customers have that you are meeting with your product or service, and explain why they are using it? Do they have other values that are not currently addressed, either by you or your competitors? Do these values offer the possibility of a differentiated communications platform or product / service concept?
  11.  WHY EMOTIONS: What is the emotional state of your customers when they are considering a purchase or use, both of the category and the br and? Clearly identified emotions enable you to more easily resonate with your customers through empathising with their current situation. You are more likely to propose a solution that will satisfy their need or desire when their emotional state is precisely identified.
  12.  WHY MOTIVATIONS: What motivates the customer to consider, buy and use their category and br and choice? Emotions and motivations are closely linked both to each other and to the customer’s need state. By identifying the need-state you want to address, you will  be better able to underst and your customers and increase the resonance of your communications.

If you can answer all twelve of these questions in detail, then you certainly know your customers intimately. But before you sit back and relax on your laurels, remember that people are constantly changing and what satisfies them today, is unlikely to satisfy them tomorrow. Therefore you need to keep a track on all four layers of your customer description to stay ahead of competition, as well as to satisfy and hopefully delight your customers.

As mentioned above, by answering and completing a detailed description of the target audience for my client, we were able to identify a couple of new segments that their services could address. Although their demographics were similar, their emotional and need states were quite different. This gave us the opportunity to respond with slightly different service offers for each group. 

If you would like to try out this exercise for yourself, we have some useful templates that we can send you, to make it easier and a lot more fun; just drop us a line and ask for them.

For more information on better identifying and underst anding target customers, please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/underst and/

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

10 Inspiring Quotes on Underst anding & Insight

Last December I shared 13 of my favourite marketing quotes; if you missed it you can read it HERE. The post received the most reads and likes of any I have published, ahead even of the list of my preferred Infographs (see HERE).

It seems we all love great quotes to inspire our thinking and motivate our actions. For this reason, I thought that as we have been discussing insight development for the last month, I would share my favourite quotes on the topic with you.

Quotes are a great way to start or end a marketing presentation and to bring home an important point to your audience. As before, I have added some actions inspired by each quote that you might want to take. Enjoy!

#1. “There is a great difference between knowing and underst anding: you can know a lot about something and not really underst and it” Charles F. Kettering (American inventor)

ACTION: This gets to the essential point of why we often struggle to get to insight. Take the time to make this important step from knowledge to underst anding, before rushing into insight development.

#2. “Remember your past mistakes just long enough to profit by them” Dan Mckinnon (Author)

ACTION: In fact this could apply as much to successes as to failures. We really should start all attempts at underst anding our customers, the market or a situation, by reviewing what knowledge is already available. This will ensure we don’t run unnecessary research and analysis.

#3. “Their lives are a lot different from ours. We want to gain an underst anding of their daily lives” Ram Kolluri (Author)

ACTION: In most businesses, although we may be using our company’s products and services, we are generally not an “average” customer. Therefore don’t consider whether YOU like something or not, but rather whether your customers will.

#4. “If you underst and everything, you must be misinformed” Japenese Proverb

ACTION: A nice reminder that we will never know everything, however long we work. In today’s rapidly changing environment, what we know about our customers is almost always out-of-date. Continuous monitoring, made easier today by social media, is an essential part of customer underst anding.

#5. “If you want to underst and today, you have to search yesterday” Pearl Buck (Nobel & Pulitzer Prize fiction writer)

ACTION: It is essential to be forward thinking in order to be prepared for future risks and opportunities. When market share or br and equity decline it is (almost) too late. Scenario planning is a great way to stay ahead of the curve, and makes trend following more competitive.

#6. “There is nothing so terrible as activity without insight” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (German poet)

ACTION: And the reverse is also true: insight without activity is just as worthless. Often we want to rush into action before really underst anding a situation and taking the time to analyse, underst and and develop a true actionable insight. If we do take the time, then the insight is deep and the actions to take clearly identifiable.

#7. “Testing leads to failure, and failure leads to underst anding” Burt Rutan (American Scientist)

ACTION: In today’s social world, we are all learning how to engage with the customer. It is therefore important to test and learn – repeatedly. If failure is accepted in a company, we are more likely to take (calculated) risks and sometimes to fail. However if we learn and benefit from them then we are stilladvancing. As another famous quote from John Maxwell says “If you‘re not failingyou‘re probably not really moving forward”.

#8. “The purpose of computing is insight not numbers” R.W. Hamming (American mathematician)

ACTION: How often do you complete an analysis and stop at the numbers? Market research and data are only of use if they are converted into knowledge and underst anding, and then integrated to develop insight. Review how often you stop at the numbers alone and make it a habit to go those few steps further every time.

#9. “You never really underst and a person until you consider things from his point of view” Harper Lee (American Author)

ACTION: This quote covers one of the basic foundations of customer centricity. Unless you can take your customers’ perspective, you will never really underst and the issue or opportunity. Get out from behind your desk and talk to your customers as frequently as possible.

#10. “Underst anding human needs is half the job of meeting them” Adlai E Jr Stevenson (American Politician)

ACTION: Have you identified the human need your br and is addressing? If not, then you are missing a valuable key to success and growth. Take a look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and think about the level your customers are on when using your br and or category. Then think about the way you communicate the benefits of your br and; do they correlate?

These are my ten favourite quotes on insight at the moment. Do you have others you would like to share? I would love to add them to the quotes section of the C3Centricity website. Our stock of inspiring quotes is constantly growing so why not check it out whenever you need a great start to a presentation or report? 

For more information on insight development, please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/underst and

Don’t forget to download your FREE cheat-sheet: ” 10 Reasons NOT to Conduct Market Research

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Getting to Actionable Insight

Last week I shared the first three essential steps to improved insight development, which covered setting the objectives, forming the team and reviewing the available information and knowledge. If you missed it or would like to re-read it before continuing then please go HERE.

This week I will complete the process with the remaining three steps and also provide you with some tips on actioning your insight once developed. After all, if you don’t take action nothing will change for your product, br and or service.

#1. Walk in your customers’ shoes

I am always disappointed how social media has encouraged marketers to stay behind their desks instead of getting out and meeting their customers. They just don’t seem to be going out and getting in touch with them as much as they used to. Is that the case in your organisation? Although you can certainly learn a lot about your customers’ opinions and even needs online, it is only when you take their place that you get the chance to really get their perspective.

Walking in your customers’ shoes can be done in numerous ways and will depend upon the issue or opportunity you have identified, as well as the underst anding you have gained from reviewing all the information you have. You could for instance:

  • Go out shopping with a fixed budget and purchase items for an evening meal of your target customer (a couple of mother of three kids). This may help you underst and why your target customers are buying the competition.
  • Compare competitive offers online for a new service you would like to propose. Is your website as user-friendly as your competitors’? Have you thought of all the important elements you need to include?
  • Call up a number of competitive manufacturers of the same product that you offer and ask questions about its uses, reliability etc. Do your own staff provide the same information? Are they as knowledgeable, credible, empathetic?
  • Role play your target customer in using your product and identify opportunities to improve for instance its packaging. If your product is used by mothers of toddlers, is it easy to open with a baby in your other arm? If your product is used in certain dem anding surroundings, such as outdoor, in the car, in the country, at night, is it easy to open and consume?

Whilst walking in your customers’ shoes, you should be extremely sensitive to any pain points in considering, evaluating, shopping and using your product or service. If you are looking to define a completely new offer, then it is the pain points of your competitors’ offers that you are looking to identify. Taking your customers perspective, rather than just observing them, can provide a wealth of information you might not get in any other way.

#2. Fill the gaps

Having done a complete review of all the available information and knowledge about your customer, including walking in their shoes, it is important to turn it all into underst anding. This also enables you to identify any information gaps there may be. These must be filled before you develop your insight, otherwise you will be working with a less than complete underst anding of the situation. The gaps can be filled by running some market research or by gathering the required information from other available sources, either internally or externally.

Before continuing with insight development, these new findings need to be summarised and integrated into the knowledge and information already reviewed. If the objectives of the project have been well defined, this is relatively easy to do.

#3. Develop the insight

You have probably never had the amount of underst anding of your customer as you do at this stage, at least in relation to the identified issue or opportunity. Insight development needs a review of all of this in the multi-disciplinary team, which can take anything from a few hours to several days. Don’t hurry this process, as too often we are too keen to get to the action and accept less than a true insights.

You will know when you are there; it is when you can summarise it in one (or maximum two) sentences phrased as it were being spoken by your customer. Often, when it is read out, it creates what is known as an “ah-ha” moment, when everyone agrees that it is just so obvious you wonder why no-one ever thought of it before! I am sure you will agree with me that it is a wonderfully rewarding feeling when you get there.

Together with last week’s first three steps, these are the six basic steps to building an insight. Of course the most important step of all is still to come, that of actioning the insight you have developed. This is where the multi-disciplinary team comes into its own. As all the team have agreed on the objectives and the insight, it is extremely easy for them to define the next steps that are needed to be taken. It also means that all areas of the organisation will work together to take the appropriate actions, rather than just the marketing department which can otherwise be the case.

From my experience actioning insights only creates problems if not enough time was spent at the beginning of the whole process, in underst anding the behavioural or attitudinal change that you are looking to encourage when defining the objectives. If you have trouble with this part of the process, then I would suggest reviewing the completeness of your defined objectives.

What areas of insight development do you find the most challenging? Do you have any questions about developing or improving your own insight development process? If so, then please add a comment or question in the box below. I would be happy to answer them for you.

For more information on insight development, please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/underst and

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

Are you into Insights or Information?

A few weeks ago I shared some ideas on developing insights. (You can read the post here) It certainly struck a chord with a vast number of you, judging from the comments and acknowledgements many of you sent in. I really appreciated them all so thanks a million.

This week I thought I would take insights development even further, by proposing some steps to take for those of you who are still struggling, or would like to upgrade your own process. Often we stop at the information or knowledge stage and thus never get to real insights. This is such a disappointment, after all the hard work of data gathering and integration.

In January Forrester wrote an article suggesting that 2013 was going to be the year for market insights. A couple of months on, things don’t seem to have advanced much, so hopefully this post will enable your own organisation to advance and to get ahead of the competition.

#1. Be precise in your objectives

As mentioned in the previous article, your objective for developing an insight should be presented as a desired behavioural change in your target audience. For example, if you are looking to increase your market share, you could be looking to:

  • Find a way to convince competitive br and purchasers to buy your br and instead

If you are looking to improve your image, your objective could be:

  • Find a communication platform that resonates better with your target audience, so they consider your br and in a new light

If you are looking to reverse a sales decline, it might be:

  • Underst and how to move your shoppers from monthly to weekly purchasing

Identifying the behavioural change you are looking to encourage is the first step to uncovering a true insight.

#2. Involve a wide range of experts

Insights are not the sole responsibility of the Market Research & Insight Department. Everyone in the company can bring valuable information and underst anding to the identified opportunity. Therefore, involving people with a wide range of perspectives can make insight development both easier and more effective. Gathering together a group of experts to provide a 360 perspective of the category or br and users could mean including:

  • R&D, who can bring underst anding of available internal & external technical skills
  • Operations can share current defects and development aspects
  • Sales can add retail perspectives, including distribution, packaging and shelving limitations or opportunities
  • Marketing will provide the communications, image, equity and competitive environment
  • Customer services can add current customer sensitivities, problems or suggestions
  • Finance can highlight any budgetary limitations and ensure financial goals are met

The group you bring together will be a function of the behavioural change you are looking to make. However I personally believe that the exercise should be run by your market research and insights team or external experts, since it is their profession to underst and people and behaviour. They also will have the widest and most detailed perspective of anyone in the company

#3. Review all available information & knowledge

All organisations have far more information than anyone realises, even your market research, insight, strategy or planning teams. This also emphasises the need for having a team with differing expertise since they will also bring different information sources to light.

Once the team has been formed and the objectives for the insight development exercise have been agreed, it is time to organise a complete review of all the available information and knowledge. This analysis can be shared amongst all members of the team. They should look for recurring themes, expressions and words across the different information sources that might provide indications of the issues or opportunities around the identified objective.

As everyone completes the review of the information, a number of working sessions can help to share the information already found and start the process of getting closer to an insight. The actual insight development exercise will take place in another meeting once all available information has been assessed and any information gaps filled.

These are the first three steps towards great insight development. In future articles I will complete the process with the remaining steps. Do you use these same steps when developing insights or do you have a different process? If you do, I would love to hear what you do differently.

For more information about insight development, please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/underst and

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

The Magic of 3: Taking a New Perspective

Like many successful entrepreneurs, I enjoy helping local associations with their marketing problems whenever I can. It seems that often simply offering a new perspective can be all that is needed to move things forward. 

Recently, I ran a re-positioning session for my local outdoor sports association and during it, I realised that many of the things we were doing together would also be of value to other organisations, big or small, who are in a similar situation.

For this reason I share some of the brainstorming we did, in the hope that it will inspire you to try something similar.

Background completeness defines the outcome

The president of the association asked for my advice because they were losing participation in their organised events. As a keen member myself, I offered to run a brainstorming session with his committee members, to see if together we could find some solutions. I started by gathering information from all the guides, which in itself was a challenge. As motivation was low, response rate was only around 25-30% and even then some of the responses were only general comments rather than specific responses to the questions asked. Things were even worse than I had anticipated!

However, this actually provided me with the “burning platform” that I presented to the president. If he didn’t address the issues immediately, I told him that his organisation wouldn’t exist 2-3 years from now! The low response rate to the study and the drop in event participation already confirmed this, but he hadn’t “wanted to see the facts”. This is where an external perspective can be invaluable.

Whenever you are faced with underst anding a situation, it is vital to start with a review of all relevant data and knowledge, and if incomplete, to complement it with an additional information gathering exercise. If you can’t precisely assess the current situation and identify all the relevant issues, your resultant brainstorming will be less effective than it could or should be.

Prioritising 3 areas only increases the level of success

It was clear from the answers I did receive that there were a number of related issues. The low participation of the organised events, was leading to the low motivation of the guides. The low awareness level and lack of visibility of the events, led to low participation in them. A vicious circle it was imperative to break. One positive sign however, was that past participants were very keen on attending future events, so it wasn’t the “product” that was at fault; people just didn’t know about them.

Another finding, that I often also see when addressing issues with my clients, is that the target audience for this association’s events, was ill-defined. Each guide had a different perspective of the people they were trying to attract. They were being defined as children, schools, companies, ladies 40-65 y.o. expatriates, those interested in history / geography, etc etc. As you can see, a wide variety of answers that wasn’t going to improve the overall cohesiveness of the association. When I dug deeper, I found that the differing topics of expertise of the guides meant that they each had in mind different target groups for their own offers. I suggested that a solution could be to group these into three major segments and to then attribute appropriate offers to each of them separately.

Three is a magic number with many uses. In this case, three segments were sufficient to offer diversity, whilst at the same time seeming achievable to attract rather than overwhelming. I also recommend choosing three areas to work on at a time and then breaking those down into sub-points, ideally three if you want to continue to work with the magic number. (If you are interested in the theory behind the power of three, then make a search online; there are innumerable examples of different uses given there, from various industries)

Choose impact over the ease of your actions

Once the three main areas have been identified, prioritise actions based upon the impact of each outcome. For example in their case, we reviewed ways to increase their visibility. Whilst their current website was quite useful, according to Alexa it was getting hardly any visits, so I suggested starting with other ways to improve visibility rather than updating it. Even if they improved their site, it would have little or no impact on the problem they were looking to address. It was an action that was certainly easy to do, and enjoyable to work on, but other actions would bring a better return for their efforts.

In line with my preference of working in threes, I will stop here and open up the discussion to you. Why not review why you may not be succeeding in your plans? Are you trying to do too much? Are you looking for the easy way out? Are your actions lacking the desired impact?

If you answered yes to any (or all) of these three questions, use the above example to rethink the problem through. Start by taking a step back and evaluating the situation from a new perspective. Ask a colleague or even someone outside the company to review the information you have on the issue and to give you their opinion. Sometimes that is all it takes to get to the real situation.

Then identify three areas to work on. Since this is often easier said than done, start by making a list of all the possible areas impacting the situation and then prioritise them. By choosing just three areas to concentrate on, it will enable you to better focus, which will in turn make them easier to achieve. And if you complete them and still have more time or budget resources, you can then tackle the next three on the list, and so on.

One last word on prioritising the areas on which to concentrate; if as was the case for this organisation, your target audience is not well defined, you are unlikely to succeed with your other priorities. Therefore reviewing and completing the definition of your target audience should always be the first area to review.

Finally identify the actions needed for each of the three areas to be addressed. Again, as in the above example, don’t jump on the first solution found. For instance, since the association with which I was working had a webmaster, it was easy for them to update their website. However, as mentioned, it would have had little impact on increasing the awareness of their events. We decided on a different set of actions to improve their communications and made updating the website a secondary action, once their rating on Alexa started to increase.

Are you struggling with issues that need an external perspective? Why not ask us to organise a 1-Day Catalyst session. We will get to the center of your issues and opportunities, and define actions with you that will provide the best return for your efforts. No obligation, just INSPIRATION!

For more information or to review other support options we can provide, just drop us a line at info@C3Centricity.com or check out our website: www.C3Centricity.com

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

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